Oklahoma State University honored more than 1,000 graduates Saturday during two undergraduate commencement ceremonies at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The OSU Graduate College recognized nearly 300 graduates Friday night.
In the Saturday morning commencement, former OSU President James Halligan and his wife Ann were presented the Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award, which is the highest humanitarian award given by Oklahoma State. In the afternoon, OSU alumnus and Native American advocate Neal McCaleb received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Halligan was commencement speaker in the first ceremony and reminded graduates from the College of Human Sciences, College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, and the Spears School of Business that they have a simple obligation to be kind.
“Do a random act of kindness every day. You’ll feel better because you do better,” he said. Halligan also told students they were prepared “to make a dent in this world” and to remember that “the important things in life are not things. They are experiences, friendships, people.”
Halligan served as OSU’s 16th President for eight years, retiring in 2002. Six years later, he won election to the Oklahoma Senate, where he was an advocate for education and served on several influential committees during two terms in office. He retired from the legislature in 2016.
McCaleb spoke to graduates from the College of Education, Health and Aviation, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and College of Arts and Sciences during the afternoon ceremony. He told graduates he earned his degree in civil engineering in 1957 but was unable to attend his commencement, so he welcomed the chance to return 60 years later.
“The tools of technology have changed dramatically in the last 60 years, but the principles of science that the technologies are based on have not changed,” McCaleb said. “Life is very much like that. The principles that you hold close, the truths that are the foundation that will govern your behavior will not change. Your tactics may, but the principles will not and your behavior must be consistent with those principles. And that’s called integrity.”
McCaleb has dedicated much of his life to public service, from his time in the Oklahoma Legislature to his appointment as assistant secretary of the interior and head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. McCaleb was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2014.
During Saturday’s afternoon ceremony, James R. Cavender, founder of Cavender’s, a family-owned and operated retail western wear company based in Texas, walked the stage with other graduates. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Husbandry in 1953 but missed commencement to report to active duty in the Air Force.